The Illinois girls tennis season concluded approximately ten days ago, just in time for a furious volley over the return of winter sports.
Just 24 hours after the IHSA Board of Directors gave the green light for all low-risk sports to start their winter seasons on time and one newly classified high-risk sport, basketball, to do the same. Illinois Governor JB Pritzker spoke out against the IHSA plan in his daily press briefing today.
“We had doctors and experts to look at what sports we could allow and what level of risk these sports are,” began Pritzker. “To make sure that we are allowing kids, we want kids to be able to train, to be able to perform their skills, to be able to condition themselves for the sport. Even at the most high risk level sports we want them to be able to at least do that. It’s not that we’re trying to shut down their sport or tell them to go home and don’t do anything.”
The governor reiterated that they are not trying to completely end any competitive seasons but rather delay them until the spring in order to help get the positivity level of COVID-19 cases down. He also mentioned he is hoping for better treatments and a vaccine(s) by the spring.
“So again it’s the high risk sports where we’ve asked that there be limitations just for the time being,” he said.
While Pritzker indicated that he has known for a while the IHSA is at odds with his line of thinking, the governor switched gears to place the onus of playing on each local school.
“I think it’s going to be incumbent upon the schools to make decisions for themselves and that’s what we’ve left schools to do,” Pritzker said. “To make decisions about how to keep their children, the kids who go to school there, the people who work there safe.”
Pritzker indicated there are 1.8 million Illinois school children out of school currently.
“We want to get kids back in school and sports is a secondary question,” he said.
His final comment was directed toward the potential ramifications if schools go ahead and play.
“I finally will say that schools, I think as I’ve said several times, will potentially be subject to some legal liability if something happens as a result of they’re playing a sport that we’ve issued guidance about that is not in congruence with what the school is operating under,” said Pritzker.
The IHSA posted no direct response to the governor however they did set forth mitigation measures for all the winter sports including basketball.
Among those measures includes officials, coaches and players wearing masks during basketball games.
The state also has eliminated all jump balls this year. The visiting team will get the opening possession. If a game is at a neutral site, a coin flip will determine the first possession. A coin flip will also determine the initial possession in all overtime periods.
To add to this tumultuous time, the Chicago Public Schools announced, in a memo to member schools this afternoon, that basketball season for boys and girls will be postponed until a time that is deemed safer. This according to information obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.